WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A plan to privatize Maui County's three public hospitals is moving forward.
Governor David Ige approved a new lease Friday which gives Kaiser's Maui Health Systems more power over Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Clinic and Lanai Community Hospital.
State Rep. Kaniela Ing representing Kihei, Wailea and Makena says it's a move to help the struggling facilities.
"If we weren't to move now, the entire hospital might have shut down," said Ing.
"It's really is going to ensure not only the financial sustainability of a scarce and valuable resource, but I'm really excited about the potential improvements that are going to happen to the delivery system here in Maui," said Wesley Ho, CEO of Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The transition process is set to be completed July 1st. Meanwhile, legal challenges linger.
The United Public Workers Union filed a lawsuit attempting to block the takeover. That case is awaiting a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In addition, three bills aim to assist public hospital workers who face threatened retirement security and possible job disruptions if the hospitals become privatized.
"A lot of them came into this job expecting certain benefits from the state," said Ing. "There's a trade-off being a state employee and if they're not going to get those benefits, that's not the deal they were promised, so we have legislation moving right now to try and take care of the workers and make sure this agreement is fair."
The bills are scheduled to be heard in conference committee sessions next week.
A spokesperson with Kaiser Permanente Hawaii says all of the nearly 1,500 hospital workers were offered jobs, and more than 95% have already accepted positions.
Kaiser says all facilities will remain community hospitals and open to patients with all types of insurance plans.